Baby squirrel care is a detailed and tricky business. Usually discovered lost or abandoned, baby squirrels are not prepared to leave the care of their mother for three to four months after they’re born. During that time, besides teaching survival skills, a mother squirrel feeds her babies and keeps them warm. If separated from their mother, by the time babies are found by someone who intends to care for them, the babies may very well be dehydrated and cold.
Before deciding to keep a baby squirrel as a pet, there is a great deal of homework to do first. From feeding to warming to providing a proper habitat, giving a squirrel a good home takes work and knowledge.
Always consult a veterinarian, but if there isn’t one available, get ready to hydrate the baby. There are many resources for how much fluid to give as well as what type. One such resource, SqurrelStore.com, advises a turgor test where, by pinching gently near the spine or shoulder, one can observe how rapidly the skin returns to flat. The faster the skin retracts, the more hydrated the baby squirrel. The longer it takes to settle into its original position, the more hydration the baby needs and the direr the situation.
During the squirrel’s first five days of life, the tiny babies are utterly helpless, hairless, and blind. Things like mites, maggots, and fleas pose a mortal danger to babies. If unable or unprepared to treat these issues, a veterinarian familiar with treating wild animals is the safest option for the squirrel.
Under the direction of an expert, a baby squirrel can be cared for and saved, but it is a process that requires dedication and attention. After hours of gentle hydration, a baby squirrel will need a formula to replace its mother’s milk about every two hours—day and night—until the eyes open, or about four or five weeks old. At this point, the formula can be administered every four hours.
Hair will begin to grow as early as five days old, but only around the face. The body fur won’t begin coming in until as long as three weeks along. Around this time, the front teeth will start growing in, and then by four weeks, the baby will have real fur.
Still, the eyes will not be opening for an additional week. At five weeks, with eyes open and fur, the baby is finally ready for some solid foods, though weaning will probably happen at the whim of the squirrel. The baby will stop taking the milk when they are ready to give it up.
In the wild, a squirrel will stay with his or her mother until about sixteen weeks. Until this time, the squirrel is not mentally mature enough to handle life in the wild. Like a teenager becoming an adult, a young squirrel won’t have a real sense of caution until this age.
Right around when the baby squirrel’s eyes are opening, he or she will be ready to try some solid foods. As an omnivore, the squirrel can try eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts out of the shell. Most importantly, the following foods are to be avoided:
If you find yourself in the position to feed a baby squirrel, take the extra time to research the healthiest options. Even an online list provided by experts cannot compete with the knowledge of a local veterinarian or rehabilitation specialist.
Each neighborhood is going to offer different types of vegetation and food choices for a squirrel that is native to that area. Also, there are more than 200 species of squirrels living in the world. Take the time to check on which kind you are dealing with and if there any special considerations that you ought to be taking.
As with any wild creature, there is always a concern regarding rabies. Luckily, for people and squirrels, rodents, including squirrels, are considered the very low risk for rabies.
As far as any other diseases baby squirrels may carry, the consensus is no. As with any wild animal, though, be sure to check with a professional if you’re concerned.
Newborn squirrels are extremely delicate. Without care, baby squirrels will perish in under twenty-four hours. If something does happen to the mother, and there are no kind humans around, other squirrels have been known to take another mother’s baby in.
Researchers suggest that this is not purely altruistic, however. While extremely kind of a mother squirrel to share her resources between an adopted baby and her other young, this is only done if the adopted baby is a close genetic relative to the mother.
The scanter the resources, the closer the relative must be for the mother squirrel to be willing to adopt. This suggests that the motivation for squirrel adoption has more to do with genetic survival than an intention to be kind. Still, it’s nice to know there is some support in the animal kingdom for little animals in need.
To save a baby squirrel in need, there are many resources available. These wild creatures are interesting, adorable, and hard to resist. If you can, let the mother retrieve the baby. If the baby is cold or injured, she may not be willing, and if it’s too close to nightfall, you may need to shelter the animal overnight.
If you are inclined to save a baby squirrel but are overwhelmed by the work required, get in touch with a veterinarian or a rehabilitation specialist. They have the knowledge and experience needed to help save the delicate baby squirrel in jeopardy.